Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Strategy and Tactics

As individuals and organizations, we are often distracted by the latest “bright, shining object.”  The object may be a new training program, software, or ministry opportunity.  Whatever it is, the new object seems more attractive than what we are presently doing, promising a quick and productive result.

In his book Leaders Made Here, Mark Miller reminds us that we should hold our strategies tightly and our tactics loosely. In World War Two, Eisenhower’s strategy was to invade Europe and defeat the German forces.  Various troop and logistical movements were the tactics to accomplish this and were constantly modified.

Strategies move us toward our long-term goals or vision while tactics are steps along the way.  Tactics change based on the realities on the ground.  New programs and ideas are tactics, but do they move us toward our ultimate goals or divert us from what we want to achieve?  Perhaps they are simply shortcuts to disaster.  We have to be wise in our choice of tactics.

One way to determine whether our tactics are compatible with our strategy is to consider both our vision and the values that undergird that vision.  One Japanese manufacturer adopted the vision statement “to make the world a better place.”  Inherent in this vision are values of respect for people, concern for the environment, and sustainable processes.  If the strategies and tactics used to accomplish this vision do not reflect those values, then there is a discontinuity. 

For Christians, the vision is to be the people of God on mission in the world.  The goal is clear but the methodology to achieve it has evolved over the centuries.  Some tactics have been effective for a while and then been discarded due to changes in the culture and the needs of people.  Others have been dead ends.  Often, things that have been useful in the past return to provide effective ministry in another time and place.

“Quick fixes” are tempting but real success comes from tenacity, patience, and commitment to our vision.  Do we need to change our tactics to achieve our strategies?  Yes, sometimes we do, but only when they are consistent with who we are and what we hope to become.  

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